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NewsOct 2, 2020

Childhood learning advocate Evelyn Finnegan ’48 dies

Alumna’s legacy includes Lesley children’s literature collection, lecture series and example for educators.

Evelyn Finnegan in 2011 holding a picture book and standing at a table with a panel of people
Evelyn Finnegan ’48 speaks at Lesley in 2011.

Alumna, educator and children’s literature champion Evelyn (Boyle) Finnegan ’48 died Sept. 8 at the age of 94.

“Evelyn’s passing is heartbreaking, but she leaves behind a beautiful legacy,” President Janet L. Steinmayer says. “Her passion for children’s literature and engaging young learners as well as her commitment to Lesley for more than seven decades are remarkable and inspiring.”

Finnegan, who was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Lesley. In addition to teaching at the elementary level, she was the longtime children’s librarian for Scituate, Massachusetts, and an author. Finnegan, who is being remembered for her commitment to family and love of children, published six children’s books, each starring one of her grandchildren. Her “My Little Friend Goes to the Dentist,” received the Ben Franklin Award.

Forever proud of her alma mater, Finnegan remained connected to Lesley throughout her life. She donated an extensive collection of children’s literature to the university that spurred the annual Evelyn M. Finnegan Children’s Literature Lecture series.

Evelyn Finnegan sitting in an audience
As a children's book author, librarian and philanthropist, Evelyn Finnegan was a supporter of children's literacy.

“Evelyn Finnegan knew that children’s books have the power to transform lives,” says Dr. Erika Thulin Dawes, director of the graduate school’s Early Childhood Division. “As an author, she penned books that offered young children guidance and comfort as they experienced new situations.”

On the occasion of her 50th class reunion, of which Finnegan was chair, she further cemented her legacy as one of the university’s staunchest contributors with the launch of the Evelyn M. Finnegan ’48 Creative Writing Scholarship.

Andrea Pickney speaking in front of a projection of a page of her children's book
Author Andrea Davis Pinkney speaks at the 2014 Evelyn M. Finnegan Children’s Literature Lecture.

“Throughout her life, Evelyn was an advocate for children’s literacy, sharing her passion for children’s literature across generations of children, teachers, parents and library patrons,” says Dr. Mary Ann Cappiello, professor of language and literacy in our Graduate School of Education. “Evelyn’s legacy will live on in the literacy work we do at Lesley: shaping current and future teachers’ understanding of the power and potential of children’s literature in the lives of young people.”

Finnegan is survived by her two sons, Paul and wife Mary (Evanston, Illinois) and Peter (Hanover, Massachusetts), and six grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her daughter Lynne and husband Paul.

A memorial celebration honoring Evelyn’s life will be held at a later date.